I’ve come across a couple of sources that offer advice on this lofty goal. Check out:
How to Make Readers Cry in Six Steps
I also found timeless advice in the book “How to Write a Romance and Get it Published” by Kathryn Falk, copyright, 1983, 1984, 1989. (Side note: An oldie but a goodie from the publisher of Romantic Times. I’ve been re-reading this one and finding lots of interest. Some information, granted, is more than a bit dated…did you know, in 1989 “micro computers” are becoming popular. Apparently they will allow you to make mistakes faster than a typewriter. LOL And the internet? What internet? But the crafting articles are excellent. I’ll probably quote from this book for a while.) I found this part interesting.
Moving the Reader to Tears is Quite an Achievement:
- Pick Your Favorite Tragedy. Death is usually the most common tactic. But grief is also valuable. Other elements that makes a reader reach for the box of Kleenex include: failing relationship with parents, siblings; a companion’s social rejection; an accident leading to disfigurement; mental disease; illness.
- Decide Upon Who Will Suffer in Order to Change. Cruel as it sounds, suffering will make your reader more sympathetic toward the character. You will then get them to share another person’s pain. Even in real life, this gains incredible sympathy, doesn’t it?
- Keep the pain going…Don’t make the pain happen too quickly. Pain today, gone tomorrow, will not evoke a tear. Be sure the pain lingers on and on. (It’s easier for your editor to cut scenes than to ask you to pad it.) [<--Not sure if I agree with this. This is assuming you have an editor/agent. Were things different back then? Was it easier to obtain the elusive relationship with an editor? I think timing is to be considered with it being a first novel. Perhaps it’s more up to you to “fix” before submission.]
- The longer your character suffers, the longer the readers will sympathize. And then the tears will come. BUT ONLY IF YOU WRING IT OUT OF THE READER. So, no quick tragedies!
- Add the Teary Scene AFTER the Story is Strongly Constructed. Many writers put the “tear jerker” scene in AFTER they write the book. That way, motivation to reach for the Kleenex is clearly motivated; it comes on top of a naturally good story. A teary scene ALONE doth not make a book.
JANE EYRE is one of the most passionate of romance novels; it throbs with the sensuality of a woman’s growing love for a man; there is a deep longing of the lonely heart in its every line.
In all the true heroes and heroines of romance, there is a loneliness that speaks for all of us. There is this reaching out for love…for just one person in the world to love with every beat of the heart…
Yes, that will make me cry.
I'd have to add "lonlieness" to my list of elements of a tear jerker, but just doing so emphasizes that it is not a fast process to evoke tears. It is not death itself, but what it means; the grief of losing and being alone.
One thing that I know I’ll try is Add the Teary Scene AFTER the Story is Strongly Constructed. I have several areas in mind that might be padded in revision. I completely agree that I think a strong foundation is needed before adding the Teary Scene.
You too can make the reader cry if you work at it. Take the time to build something worth crying over, then make it better. Sooth the hurts. The HEA might also make the reader cry.